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Opportunity to Take Survey in "Down for the Count: Women Veterans Likely Underestimated in Federal Homelessness Figures"

Date Posted: Thursday, April 13, 2017

Category: Housing/Experiencing Homelessness - National

This is the sixth and final article in a grant-funded series penned by Lily Casura. She encourages women veterans to take the included survey to inform future initiatives. The previous five articles in addition to an interactive map of homeless women veteran stories, a developing national directory accepting input from anyone who knows of homes for women veterans experiencing homelessness, and a podcast are linked at the end of this piece.

How many women veterans are experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness across the nation? Like homeless men, no one has a definitive count, but the women's count is significantly more precarious for a number of reasons. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) officially included a question asking women if they served in the military in 2012, which was then used for the first time in their January 2013 annual point-in-time survey. A similar question was used by HUD for years when counting homeless males, a reflection of the nation's bias and awareness of both men's and women's military service. Other factors include the availability of volunteers in counties to assist with annual counts, what time of the year counts are conducted, counter bias, and where homeless individuals present. Women with and without children, for example, are less likely to go to cogender shelters and sleep outside and more likely to "couch surf" or "double up" with family and friends until no longer welcomed.

The best national count offered today is a wildly variant range from HUD's 2016 report of 3,328 to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) estimated 14,000 in any given year to 30,000 upwards to 41,000+ based on 2013 VA research that includes assessing the impact of poverty. What everyone agrees on is that women veterans are the fastest growing cohort of homeless people and they are many times more likely to experience homelessness than civilian females.

The challenges are many to include full enfranchisement in the military while serving, a continuing imprecise and unreliable count, government definitions of homelessness (federal law does not allow for "couch surfing"), women veterans are undercounted, underrepresented in research, and underfunded through government agencies. The extraordinary efforts of individual passionate citizens and faith-based organizations nationwide are the primary sources of alternative housing options for this population of homeless women.

Read the full article at: The Huffington Post